The World Today for May 22, 2023


Comforting the Afflicters


Government troops and foreign fighters – allegedly soldiers affiliated with the Wagner Group, the Russian military contractor – massacred at least 500 people in the town of Moura in Mali in late March last year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Around 20 women and seven children died in the operation that was nominally aiming to kill jihadists who have been operating in the West African nation. UN officials also believe that the soldiers raped 58 women and girls, reported Agence France-Presse.

Calling the findings “extremely disturbing,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said that “summary executions, rape and torture during armed conflict amount to war crimes and could, depending on the circumstances, amount to crimes against humanity.”

The US State Department called on Mali to work with the international community to bring the perpetrators to justice. In a press release, a spokesman said violence like that in Moura would only drive more Malians into the arms of the jihadists who have been seeking to overturn the military government that has ruled the country since 2021.

Malian leaders denied the allegations in the UN report, saying all those who perished in the raid on Moura were Islamist militants, wrote Reuters.

The massacre occurred as Mali is in a sensitive spot. The country endured military coups in 2020 and 2021, but the generals have promised to hold elections in 2024, explained the United States Institute of Peace. In the meantime, their legitimacy is under threat due to widespread frustration with jihadist violence, corruption, human rights abuses, and economic inequality, among other concerns.

A recent scandal involving a secret recording of a woman seeking to bribe government officials on behalf of a tobacco magnate illustrates the corruption that Malians have grown to despise, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project noted.

Islamists, additionally, have killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands since they and other insurgents began operating in Mali in 2012, especially in the country’s remote eastern regions, Human Rights Watch added. The UN and European Union, led by France, have deployed peacekeeping missions to the country to fight the militants. But French officials have complained that Malian leaders have not been allowing the forces to fulfill their mandates.

On June 18, voters in Mali are slated to vote yes or no on whether to accept a new draft constitution that would provide a framework for officials elected in an expected ballot next year, Radio France Internationale reported. Critics have panned the idea of a referendum, saying the country needs to achieve peace and stability first, Al Jazeera wrote.

In the case of Mali, however, it’s hard to tell whether public support is necessary to secure peace or vice versa.

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